This is a short post describing one of the oldest Irish estates. In a way, it is my first personal post, but I hope others will take the time to visit this serene and special place.
I recommend that everyone visit it once in their lifetime. At 2,500 acres, it is the largest private demesne in the country, I believe.
Waterford is a place of stunning beauty and Curraghmore is probably the jewel in its crown. Recently open to the public, I had the pleasure to walk around it and got the guided tour. I will be returning early next year to repeat the experience. I hope you enjoy the post.
Curraghmore Estate, Co. Waterford- Heaven’s Hideaway
If you ever want the sunshine to dance from your eyes, take a visit to Curraghmore Estate sometime. It’s not so much an estate as it is emotional blotting paper. All your worries and cares will drain away under the gaze its broadleaf trees and the brooding power of the ancient walls.
Like a sea sky, Curraghmore doesn’t just appear; it slowly unfolds, rolling out with a latent majesty designed to clobber your senses and stun-clap you into submission. The French called this mirage of the eye ‘delayed gratification’ when building their great estates. The De la Poers came from Normandy to Ireland in 1167. One can see why it took 18,000 men to build the Gardens of Versailles and wonder in awe at how many Curraghmore employed.
It is gatehouses that strike you first. Cockerels the size of ostriches graze freely around them, half hidden by the Jurassic grass and tangled undergrowth of the forest. The gatehouses are hobbit-like and quaint in their appearance. They speak of a time when people believed in the Other because they could not trust the self. As if to apologise for their homely size, vast fields flank you left and right as you drive in. They’re so big, you’re half expecting to see The Wild Bull of Cooley roaming in them. Instead you get the pheasants.
First comes one, then two, then a dozen until, finally, you understand that you’re in nature’s womb. Their raucous clucks, witch-croaks and cheese-grating caws freckle the air and the trees above them leak out with an uncommon greenery. A louche river ribbons through the world-weary fields and time-chiselled forests. It flows like a robe of constellation-blue between wide, stone-walled banks. From the mortar-crumbling bridge built in 1205, you can watch salmon wriggle upriver and dance through the river weed. The leaves of the overarching great oaks seep with such mellowness local legend has it the salmon pause to eat them on their final journey upriver.
Then you see something that makes you rub your eyes. Darting under the whiskers of whispering moss are white birds of great size. Are they egrets, you wonder? They are not. They are the famous white pheasants of Curraghmore, as bold as brass and as rare as iridium. Brought in centuries ago from the Caucuses, they can only be found in such numbers in Curraghmore and can’t be seen anywhere else in the wild. The Sitka Spruce that leans over the bridge is 160 feet of heaven-touching wildness but because it’s in a hollow, it’s not the tallest tree on the estate. It is a fitting guardian to these beautiful birds.
Finally you come to the house itself. On one side, it can be approached through a yawning courtyard lined on each side by neat stables. The gravel is courteous to car tyre and tread of paw and hoof. The house, though large, doesn’t loom over anything much. It lingers there like a trapped memory of something it itself can’t quite remember. It is inoffensive and gentle yet it remains the pulsing soul of this great estate. The rear of the house hosts a lake in the manner of the grandest abbey and its ivy-clung walls glint with richness in the riparian light. The lake is vow-silent and the house seems tattooed onto its gin-clear skin.
Inside its walls is magic; rare treasures, tales of derring-do and rooms seemingly untouched by the endless swirl of ancestors and industrial change. The portraits, a Reuben’s here, a you-know-who-there, are a living reminder of the people who lived and died under this broad roof. Basil, the genial host, will guide you around with a dulcet voice to crack the hushed silence the house inspires. The tick of a clock, the rustle of cloth, the sigh of a door; you feel that the house should not have to endure any more decibels than this. It has seen and heard too much already.
After the house tour, you are taken outside to a marvel of imagination. The Shell House was built in 1754 and took 261 days to complete. One can see why, as the opera of the sea is captured in snapshots inside this remarkable monument. It is shaped like an old, Irish round tower. Seashells from the most capacious seas and distant beaches speckle the walls, covering them entirely. Conches, cockles, clams and very rare shells jostle with the light spearing through the slits, making the room sparkle like Solomon’s mines.
A walk around this 2,500 acre estate shall give you a sense of peace and isolation rarely found in the modern world. Like the faint, dying call of a trumpet, it is the last echo of an Ireland that no longer exists. When the heaven-leaking light begins to fade, the stars can be seen scattered like diamond dust on black velvet. There is no light pollution in Curraghmore. In fact, there is no pollution of anything, including its spirit. Its Tolkien-esque dimensions ensure that.
When your day ends there, you are left with a sense that your footfalls are merely dust in the vast hall of history that is Curraghmore House. You ache for more of its grandeur, more of its spaciousness, more of its wildness. And then you find yourself silent on the journey home, reflecting on the memory house it has given you.
Such is its magic. Such is its sorcery.
If you wish to check out any of my books, just click on the images below. They will take you to the Amazon website. I hope you enjoyed the post.
This post is to help teachers with a one-off comprehension exercise. It is designed to show how a splash of colour and a dash of sound can improve anyone’s writing. I hope you enjoy the post. It is taken from the prequel to ‘Blue-Sky Thinking’, available on Amazon. All my books can be viewed simply by clicking on the book images below. I hope you enjoy the post.
Summer is my favourite time of the year. I love to see the conker-brown trees grow a shaggy head of hair once again. The treetops explode into carnival-green for a short time and the birds sing their summer carols between the branches.
In the gardens, the snipping of shears and the hum of lawnmowers can be heard. Pollen drifts through the air like invisible stardust and the sweet taste of ripe fruit can be plucked from salad bowls. Lemon-yellow hay swishes and sways in the meadows. Plum-purple skies kiss the day away. It can be soul raising to sit down and watch the golden eye of dusk turn to rose-gold, blink and disappear.
The dawn chorus announces itself before the rising sun. A ballad of birdsong cuts through the cold, crystal air. The skies are diamond-pink and ring with the joy our feathered friends feel. Then Titan’s wheel peeps over the horizon, throwing down spears of nectar-gold. The dewy ground steams and the burned-earth perfume of the meadow ghosts upwards. Chemical-blue streams babble over rocks and lazy trout drift in moonshine-clear waters.
As the day goes on, clouds as fine as llamas’ wool sail in the sky. Under them, flocks of crows roll and loop like storm-tossed gunpowder, happy to be alive. Their caws echo as if they are in a dome of glass and the world is happy.
In a few short months, autumn will be upon us. Shadows will creep across the land and raindrops will drip from deep caves. The summer leaves will change their cloaks to lava-red and blazing-oranges. Bat-light replaces daylight and the first fires will crackle and splutter in cold grates.
The autumn winds will appear and creaking trees become wailing banshees. The rivers will swell and burst, flooding the once-golden meadows. God’s nightstar, the moon, throws down splinters of weak light and phantom-eyed owls hoot and haunt the night. Doom-black clouds shall roll in, pregnant with rain. Great forks of lightning will fizzle and siss in the sky, flashing like a witches’ whip.
Then, when Hallowe’en and the horror is over, a great dread shall settle over the land. The white skies strangle all the light. Snow will fall. A tomb-like stillness will be broken only by the muffled grenade sound of boots crunching through snow. Ponds will freeze like silver dishes and whiskey-nosed children will break the silence with their laughter.
Christmas Day is here. Frost-fingers hang from the window sills. Turkeys sizzle on oven foil and crackers snap and burst. The pine sweet smell of the tree fills the house and ribbons of fire chases the burglar-black shadows away. The angel looks down on the house while the star-flash of tinsel glitters and reminds us of the past.
Enjoy summer while you can. It is a long way to Christmas.
- Did you like this passage? Explain why or why not. Pick your 5 favourite lines from the passage and explain why you liked them.
- Does this passage show how you can write better? Explain why or why not.
- Write out a passage using autumn and winter colours, sounds, images etc. Use your own words. Before attempting this, plan the passage with a spider map or by using word grids.
These free worksheets describing a beautiful woman are taken from the book ‘Blue-Sky Thinking’. This book is for sale on Amazon but is also available below for free.
To access it, just click here:
Describing Females Worksheet
The solutions to the worksheets and some mild advice on lesson plans are also provided.
I hope you enjoy the challenge of filling them in and you can click the book covers below for more information on Liam’s books. It will take you into the Amazon bookstore.
Writing with Stardust- free on Kindle for 3 months only!
To celebrate ‘Writing with Stardust’ being put on Kindle for free, I’m putting up a post on ‘Describing a meadow’. It comes in 2 Levels- Beginners and Intermediate, both of which use the 5 senses.
I hope you enjoy the post. The Level 5 post on ‘Describing a meadow’ will be posted in a few days.
Clicking on the link below will take you to the Amazon Kindle store where you can get your copy for free!
Picture a meadow with a forest on either side of it. Running through the centre is a dreamy stream and the sky-punching mountains soar up in the background. An abundance of wild foods grow here as the climate is mild and the grass is lush and springy. Now that you have the scene, read on to decide which group of words you would pick to describe it. There are sample passages for the 2 Levels as you read on.
Level 1: The meadow in spring/summer: Beginners
Colours: Amazon-green: Eden-green: grape-green: peppermint-green: postcard-green
Sounds: the dawn chorus: the music of the meadow: babbling brook; buzzing midges: chirring grasshoppers: squeaking swallows: whirring dragonflies: murmuring winds
Sky colour/shape: The unending, brochure-blue sky.
A dome of cocktail-blue.
The endless, jewel-blue sky.
A shrine of crystal-blue.
A vault of neon-blue.
Stars of the night sky: flashing: flickering: gleaming: glinting: glittering
Other images: misty-eyed fox cubs: yolk-yellow ducklings: a lagoon-blue pool: flowers steaming in the morning mist: mountains as cruel as a hag’s teeth
The song of the river: ringing; sprinkling: plinking: tinkling: chinking
The rain: beads of rain: pearls of rain: teardrops of rain: dewdrops of rain: pregnant drops of rain:
Smells: the pollen rich smell of: the baked-apple smell of: the cherry blossom sweet smell of: the caramel soft smell of: the syrup fresh smell of
Tastes: the taste of zingy onions: peppy wild peas; zesty wild garlic
Sensations: goose bumps: skin tingling: heart thumping: jaw-dropping: eye-opening
SAMPLE PASSAGE: LEVEL 1: A Meadow in Spring/Summer
I came across a meadow once that looked as if it had stepped from the pages of a storybook. The grass was Eden-green and thigh-high to a thrush. The mountains in the distance had peaks that looked as cruel as a hag’s teeth. It was the only part of the meadow that looked off in some way. The rest of it was paradise.
It wasn’t just the sights that pleased the senses. The sounds, smells and tastes were out of this world also. The sky above the meadow was a feast for the eyes. It stretched as far as the eye could see in a dome of cocktail-blue, punched with fluffy clouds. Squeaking swallows chased whirring dragonflies in a dance of life and death.
A neon-blue ribbon of river ran through the centre of the meadow. A party of yolk-yellow ducklings scattered from under my feet as I approached it, crashing into the water. The song of the river was very gentle as it went plinking and tinkling over the gravel bed.
The music of the meadow came to my ears above the sound of the water: the dawn chorus, buzzing midges and the whispering of the wind. I could smell the sweetness of cherry blossoms and the caramel soft scent of flowers in the air. It was so soothing that I lay my head against a mossy rock and drifted into a deep sleep. When I awoke, I was very hungry so I dug up some wild onions. I put them into the beef sandwich I had brought and bit into them. They were so fresh their zingy taste felt like electric sherbet in my mouth. I could feel some dewdrops of rain on my head. The cloud soon passed, leaving the grass and earth to steam gently like druid- smoke.
As I made my way home, the first stars started to flicker in the night sky. They looked like someone had thrown fairy dust into the air and a black blanket had caught them. I swore I would return someday to this meadow, a piece of lost heaven.
Sadly, I have never been able to find it again.
Level 3: The Meadow in Autumn: Intermediate
Leaf colours: burnt-orange: lava-orange: burning-orange: scorched-orange: volcano-orange
barbecue-red: ember-red; inferno-red; magma-red: hellhound-red
glowing-gold: glinting-gold: molten-gold: sunburst-gold: waxmelt-gold
Sounds: bumbling bees: the wind music of the trees: a winged symphony of birdsong: owl-hoots by night: the thunk-thunk-thunk of nuts; creaking trees:
Sky colours: bruised-blue: warlock-black: plum-purple: dawn-pink: sea-silver
The sun: a fiery ball: a golden globe: God’s daystar: God’s golden eye: an ore-gold coin
Other images: the straining light of autumn: fog-tinted fairy trees: moon-splashed trees: cobwebs like silver fishing nets: mackerel skies and mare’s-tail clouds
Background detail: sky-spearing mountains: a weeping waterfall: iron-grey clouds: lances of sunlight flood the valley: the hog-backed mountains
Smells: mulchy: oaken: gummy: seasoned: woody
Tastes: savoury: toothsome: wholesome: mouth-watering: ravishing
Sensations: the cold bite of the wind: ear-burn: freezing whiskey-noses: apple-frosted cheeks: eye-watering winds
SAMPLE PASSAGE: LEVEL 3: A Meadow in Autumn
If Gods do exist, this meadow is their hideaway. That might seem a bit ironic, as most of the autumn leaves are hellhound-red in colour. The rest are scorched-orange and a pure, molten-gold. One by one, they drop to the ground, leaving the trees bare and skeleton-thin.
How could this be paradise, you might ask, never mind the playground of the Gods? Ah, but reader, you have not visited this meadow at the start of autumn as I have done. There you might see a bruised-blue and sea-silver sky chasing the grass into shadow at the coming of the dusk. You may also have been lucky enough to see a mackerel sky, grape-green and salmon-silver, with lances of sunlight spearing the ground in places.
If you had gone there at night, you would have noticed the wind music of the trees. Their gentle creaking and whispering leaves can’t overcome the steady thunk-thunk-thunk of ripe nuts falling to the ground. The owls hoot as they ghost past moon-splashed trees and the scurrying of frightened rodents ruffles the leaves. The rodents are after the sweetest windfall apples you have ever tasted. They are wholesome and toothsome, a tasty morsel left out by the Gods.
Late autumn can seem eerie but it has an alien beauty all of its own. Fog-tinted fairy trees become noosed by the dragons’ breath of the dawn. In the afternoon, the straining light of the pale sun pokes into dark places. When the clouds have passed, Gods daystar burns like a golden coin. The cobwebs flash like the steel nets of a fisherman and the dewy air is mint-fresh to the lungs. The sky-spearing mountains come into focus and their monk-caps of snow glitter in the light. Weeping waterfalls, looking like looms of ice-silver, topple and crash to the deep pools beneath.
Late autumn also brings the cold bite of the wind, freezing whiskey noses and apple-frosted cheeks. All is not lost, however. Nature provides one last bounty in the meadow. Wild pears ripen and tumble, orchard-fresh fruit is ready to be plucked and plump salmon provide one half of a surf ‘n turf delight. The gummy and sappy smells of the trees shedding their lifeblood through the bark reminds you that winter is coming.
You must hurry along to your home now as the scavenging skies are pressing down on top of you. You are comforted by the fact that Heaven’s Hideaway will burn long into the memory banks. Just don’t tell anyone how to get there. It’s our secret for now.
I hope you enjoyed the post. Just click on any of the book covers to find out more about Liam’s books. It will take you into the Amazon bookstore.
I hope you enjoyed the post.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 370,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 16 days for that many people to see it.
Click here to see the complete report.
This post gives you 200 magical words to use in an essay. It also tells you the word that Tolkien, Edgar Allen Poe and many others believe is the most beautiful in the English language. These grids are from my book ‘Writing with Stardust’, now on Amazon.
Just click on the Microsoft Word document below to access the words:
200 MAGICAL WORDS FOR AN ESSAY
I hope you enjoy reading the words and that they can improve your essays.
Click on the book covers below to see all of Liam’s books on Amazon. It will take you into the Amazon book store. Thanks and I hope you enjoy the post.
Describing a handsome man is made easy by looking at these two chapters from my book, ‘Writing with Stardust’, now on Amazon. There are 5 levels to choose from. Level 1 is beginners’ English and Level 5 is for advanced students. The end of the post gives sentences and paragraphs in all 5 levels. Just click on the Microsoft Word document below (in blue) to access the chapters.
DESCRIBING A HANDSOME MAN
I hope you enjoy the post and you can click on any of the book covers below to get further information on Liam’s books. It will take you into the Amazon bookstore.